I spent four weeks in villa Hellebosch working on my first novel and a book of translation from Kurdish to English. I find being away from home fruitful for writing, away from social obligations and the everyday chores. To be a kept person all of one's life may be a sin but to be looked after for a few weeks in order to concentrate on work is a luxury we can afford every now and then. I am always inspired by new places, by having a different view from my window, and by open space, even if I don't explore it as much as I should. I was lucky to share this beautiful space with Eva Gerlach and we had some brilliant exchanges about poetry, life and work. I admired her long walks every day while I sat in the same spot, in the top hand corner of the garden, typing away on my laptop. I also find Belgium fascinating, maybe because in Iraq we are trying to achieve a similar federal system where the three regions could peacefully coexist without the domination of one side over another. Places like Belgium and Switzerland give us hope, despite the obvious differences between their history and ours, that peace is possible even for a war-torn and battered country like Iraq.
I come from Kurdistan and our regional government is thirteen years old now. After the first Gulf War, when the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings were crushed by Saddam Hussein, the majority of the Kurds fled to Iran and Turkey. It was the biggest refugee crisis at the time and it lead to the creation of the "Safe Haven" with its airspace protected from Iraqi fighter planes by the UN. Since then the Kurdish regional government has made good progress establishing a stable infrastructure, better economy, freedom of speech and securing more rights for women. We hope that soon this will be possible in other parts of Iraq. Europe is fascinating for what it has achieved since the last World War, maybe we will catch up one day. Maybe we can all learn from past mistakes and the world will become a more peaceful place. We have to keep working hard for this, building bridges and facilitating understanding of other cultures, other people and different places. Literature is probably the best way to enrich our worldview and programs such as the Passa Porta residencies that facilitate cultural exchanges by giving refuge to writers from different parts of the world are a great way for working towards this.
Choman Hardi, Vollezele, October 2005.
5.09.05 > 3.10.05